6 Strategies for Leaders Ready to Make the Magic Happen in 2022 Unless you're a solopreneur, being a leader isn't just part of the job. It is the job.
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If you're like me, when you thought about starting your business, your first thought wasn't, "Hey, I'll build this business so I can manage and lead a bunch of people! Woo hoo!" I realized that I would need resources as I grew. But for many years, I treated leading my "team" as an afterthought.
It wasn't until I started building my second multi-million-dollar business that I really understood the importance of being a great leader — and I also realized that I wasn't one. I was losing good people, and I wasn't getting the results I wanted from those who stayed. I took a good look at myself and sought out training and coaches so I could be a better leader. I realized that my success depended on it.
Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader
Here are some of the lessons I learned.
1. Be willing to make tough calls
I'm typically pretty decisive, even with tough decisions. But when it came to tough personnel decisions? Not so much. What I've learned is that avoiding confrontation with a team member — or even worse, stalling on firing someone who needs to go — affects and infects the entire team. I had to learn to see the problem, admit the problem and deal with the problem quickly. It's not about being brutal. Tough conversations with a team member should always be in private and done with respect. But avoidance is not an option.
2. Learn to listen
As entrepreneurs, many of us are high energy and frankly love hearing ourselves talk! I've learned that it's even more important to be a great listener. Many of us listen just enough to figure out our response. But real listening is more than just waiting your turn to speak and not interrupting. It's listening completely, the way you would listen to the wisest person that you know. It's letting team members fully express their ideas or concerns without jumping in with your opinion.
3. Communicate clearly
If you want your team to share your vision or act on your decisions, you need to clearly communicate what that vision is and those decisions are. You can't just fly in with a to-do list and expect full participation. Don't just assume that the team understands why it's important just because it's so clear to you. They don't live in your head! You'll save a lot of time by taking the time to explain your thinking and your objectives: "Okay, here's where I'd like us to go. And here's exactly what it will look like when we're there. And here's why I'm so excited about it. And here's how I think we'll make it happen and what your part will be. Any thoughts or ideas? Questions?"
Related: 7 Ways to Become a Better Business Leader
4. Empower team members
When you trust your team and empower them to do their best, that's when you'll see amazing results from them. Of course, this means that you need to know them and their strengths. And you need to trust them enough to make mistakes. It's tough, but when you establish a team environment where making mistakes is not the end of the world and everyone is accountable for what they do, people feel much freer to be creative, try new ideas and step out of their comfort zones.
5. Show appreciation often
Scads of studies have shown that appreciation and recognition increase employee performance, retention and motivation. Common sense, right? None of us likes being taken for granted. Yet, most of us only acknowledge our team at the end of some big project or after reaching a huge goal. That's not enough. Team members need your appreciation for the small wins and even the great tries that didn't quite work. They need to be appreciated for taking risks and showing up for you. We think of recognition as monetary. While that's still important, folks also want to be told and shown that they're valued in other ways.
Related: 5 Ways to Be a Leader Your Employees Will Respect
6. Put in the time
Unless you're a solopreneur, being a leader isn't just part of the job. It is the job. I used to think I could "set it and forget it." Just hire good people and tell them what to do and the magic will happen, right? Wrong! To be effective, team members need a leader who is present for the team and who takes the time to lead them.
If you're trying to build a sustainable, profitable business and leadership hasn't been your forte, I urge you to seek out coaching or training. As Brian Tracy says, "Team-building is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the heights of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it."